10 tips to succeed in your studies from  some of our top Matric learners and Professor Jonathan Jansen, chancellor of the University of Free state

1. Stay focused !

If you have a positive attitude, you will remember better what you study.

"Before studying, set your goals like how much you want to improve your marks over a defined period of time, says Sihle Gule (6 distinctions, 2016). This will motivate you to study harder".

Kamogelo Tswai (7 distinctions, 2016) :Find yourself a role model. Mine was Lucas, who achieved 7 distinctions At the beginning of the year, create a list of all the things you want to achieve. Paste them where you will be able to see them everyday to stay motivated. Aim high but be realistic. When you procrastinate, remind yourself of your goals".

“My vision guided me since Grade 10, says Brillant Moyo(5 distinctions in 2013). I was motivated a former Eastbank high learner who became a chartered accountant. I also watched a lot on YouTube motivational speakers like Vusi Thembekwayo".

Mbonjwa Sabelo (3 distinctions in 2013): "My teachers, a friend and Church motivated me and helped me a lot to resist peer pressure. Because I did not want to go out with them on Friday and Saturday time, they called me names. Even if it was hard to study in a shak, it paid off."

Busi Mtya (4 distinctions, 2012): "The recipe for success is hard work, focus on one thing, be sure of what you want, stand up and persevere. I got teased a lot, called four-eyes, shortie, to a point that I got immune to the jokes".

Mitchell Manamela : "In Gr 8 and 9, I was hanging out with friends, who were smoking and involved in girls. Thanks to my Grade 10 sciences teacher, I realised that I was with the wrong guys. So I made friends who care about school and started to get good marks"

"There is nothing more debilitating than to have friends who are negative and who tell you to expect the worst.  Hang out with calm and positive people". (Prof Jonathan Jansen)

2. Get organized!

 Do a summary of each lesson during the year. Start studying at least 2 weeks before exams.

Draw up a study schedule. Tick off what you have done every day. Study one subject for 1 hour (2 max) and then, take a break, do a 10 min revision and study another one…

Breaks are important as the brain tires after one hour and concentration can become difficult. Do some physical activities or cook, sing or listen to music, have a snack...

Balance out your subjects. It won't help to pass one subject with flying colours but fail others.

Practice past papers  
Sihle Gule (6 distinctions) and Xihluke Maswanganye (7 distinctions)- 2016 

     Sihle Gule : "A study timetable helps you to focus more on subjects you are struggling with. 

    During the year, keep studying as if the final exams are just next week. The most difficult part of managing your time is that there's not enough time. Always remember that what you are doing during the course of the year, good or bad, will catch up with you at the end.

    Kamogelo : "Always study ahead of a teacher. This helps in a way that when next time you are taught, everything becomes a revision. Preparations for final exams start from January, not October"

    Tshepo Kobe (4 distinctions, 2012) :"The first week of Grade 12, I revised all my Grade 11 math and sciences. Then, I  studied each subject for 2 hours, have a short break, and start another one. I did about 4 subjects per day. Some learners concentrate too much on Math. You have to balance the subjects. 

Brillant Moyo : "Sticking to your own study plan needs a lot of determination. After school, after a quick lunch, I would start with the easy subjects for 2 hours (one subject per day). From 6 pm, I would do my homework and then study until 10 pm. I also read my textbooks before each lesson to get a better understanding. Before exams, I would summarize them to make it easier to memorise".
"In the week before an exam, plan how you will spend each hour. Sketch on your bedroom wall when you will sleep, when you will study what subject or topic, and when you will relax with music or whatever works for you"(Prof Jonathan Jansen)
Brillant Moyo, Sabelo Mbonjwa, Fernando Sibiya, top 2013 matriculants

3. Get enough sleep!

Kamogelo : Make sure you rest enough.

Mitchell  : "I slept  from 11 pm to 5.30 every day. The day before the exam, I would have a good night sleep".

"Many of you will stay up all night and try to push the last bits of information into your head. Bad idea. You need a good sleep, first of all, and cramming leads to forgetting. You should be planning which sections of work to study in advance, and go through each section carefully and calmly. Do not leave everything to the last minute. Cramming is not Learning"(Prof J. Jansen)

4. Study with friends!

Study with someone who is stronger than you in your weak subjects and with whom you can share study tips and help where you are stronger.

Kamogelo : "Befriend people who have the same goals as you and who can help you to overcome your weaknesses".

Tshepo : "We used “study masters” (revision books) and discussed the subjects together. As I studied much harder than them, I would explain what they did not understand. It helped me a lot, because what I had learnt would stick to my memory. But you have also to revise by yourself".
Busi :  "Don’t be intimidated by others in study groups, help out where you can. My group had specialists for each subject".
"There is nothing more motivating than to study alongside a friend who is hardworking and smart. You can confer with each other and boost one another when you get tired". (Prof Jonathan Jansen)

5. Be active when you study!
 Use active learning methods.       
- If you are a visual person (you learn best by seeing things), underline headings, highlight keywords in bright colours, look at the teacher when she or he talks while writing things down as you will remember easier that way

 - If you are an auditory person (you learn best by hearing things), recite things out loud, make up songs about your subject matter, record your notes with your cellphone and play it back to yourself ;

- If you are a tactile person (who learns by touching things), walk around the room, chew gum or even squeeze a ball while you are studying ; use role-playing with another learner or teach him/her what you have just learnt.

When you study, 
-Ask questions to yourself : why and when did it happen ? how does it work ? What is the concept behind this? What are the uses of this concept? etc.

-Read the text slowly and try to find the answers
-Take notes and summarize the text with your own words

-Review what you have read by doing a summary, drawing a map, diagram, etc …you will memorise facts and terminology better if you make connections and learn information associatively

-Practice past exam papers and revision questions

-Use revision books (X kit are very good)

Busi: "When I was reading life sciences or economics books, I told myself I was reading a wonderful novel. I would write notes, do  summaries during the year. To remember well, I would repeat what I had learned in front of a mirror, like if I was teaching a class".

6. Block out distractions!
Switch off your cellphone, TV and other sources of distraction when you study. If it is too noisy at home, study at your school or local library. 
Tshepo Kobe on the sofa where he was sleeping

Tshepo : 
"I study on a sofa next to the TV. If there was too much noise, I would use the earplugs that my mentor gave me. 

"If you like music, use it to get motivation. If you like to watch movies, find educative movies"

Mitchell : "From Prelim, I told my girlfriend I had to focus on my studies".

7. Stay away from stress!
"It is important to stay away from things that upset or disturb you in these final days before you write. This is not a good time to pick a fight with your parents or boyfriend or girlfriend. Your job is to stay calm at all times". (Prof Jonathan Jansen)
Brillant : "Mitvah teachers put a lot of pressure on me and I had nearly a breakdown. Music helped me to cope with stress and relax".

Busi Mtya : "Screaming and yelling out “words of frustration” helped me to cope with stress. My little sister can be a pain. We had problems at home but my mum tried to reassure me everything would be fine".
The more you study, the less you will feel anxious. If you are scared to fail, put an extra effort now : fear will stimulate you to prepare better !
Do not panic:
"The key is to remain calm and rely on what you already know and your preparation in the various school subjects since Grade 10. If you panic, you are likely to forget important information because when you are stressed you cannot think or recall clearly. Listen to music. Find a Trevor Noah DVD and have a good laugh the night before the exams".
(Prof Jonathan Jansen)
If you suffer from panic attack (rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, shaking, sweating, etc) before or during your exams, do something easy like writing your name backwards, breath deeply and do some physical exercise. Your panic will pass. If you are feeling overwhelmed, call Lifeline on 0861 322 322.
8. Stay healthy!
Have small, frequent meals to maintain blood and brain sugar levels (heavy meals and junk food make you feel sluggish)
Drink lots of water, to keep your body steady

Avoid sugary soft drinks (it might be more difficult to concentrate) and stimulants, including coffee (they only give you a boost for a short time, followed by a “crash”)

To help you sleep, drink a glass of milk at bedtime.

Writing exams for 3 hours at a stretch is very tiring - your hands, arms and upper body ache. Concentrating for 3 hours is also exhausting. To prepare for this, you must try to work for 3 hours at a stretch. Practice past papers in simulated exam condition (without memos, breaks, music, water,e tc)
9. Writing the exam..
Sleep well the night before !

On the morning before the exam, eat a good breakfast and drink water.

If you fell anxious, balance your breathing : breath in for 7 seconds, hold and breath out for 7 seconds. Do this several times and your mind will start to relax

Read through all the instructions and each question, understand well the question before answering : this is the most important factor !

Write down key words on the response to the question or draw a quick mind map

Start by the easiest questions : it builds up your confidence and make it easier for you to tackle the more difficult questions

Stay calm and if you are stressed, put down your pen, close your eyes, take  few deep breaths and relax all your muscles

Often your intuition will lead you  to answer the questions you don’t know
10. Keep perspective!
"If you do poorly in the exams, it is not the end of the world. Many of my best students took an additional year before they started a degree. One examination can never be a judgment on your worth as a human being and a potential scholar of the future".
(Prof Jonathan Jansen)

 Where can I get help in Alexandra  ?

Ma Afrika Tikkum on 16 th avenue has a library where you can work. Check if they still run homework classes. info 087 741 1020

Some of our students also can help you with extra tuition for free (please contact Valerie)
Good luck! Be smart!


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